A Turboprop’s Epic 12,000-Mile Journey From Brisbane To Exeter

A Turboprop’s Epic 12,000-Mile Journey From Brisbane To Exeter

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While awesome journeys like these happen around the globe on a daily basis, I always love highlighting them when readers bring them to my attention.

Virgin Australia turboprop flies from Australia to England

Virgin Australia has undergone a major restructuring, and as part of that, the airline cut its wide body and turboprop fleet, instead simply focusing on 737s. The airline used to operate a fleet of over a dozen ATR72 aircraft, including the ATR72-600.

When airlines get rid of planes, it’s normal for them to have to be repositioned, either to return to the leasing company, or to be transfered to their new owner. Well, within the past week a former Virgin Australia ATR72-600 aircraft — with the registration code VH-FVZ — had quite a journey.

The plane had to be repositioned from Brisbane, Australia, to Exeter, England, and as you might expect, that took quite a few stops. While the direct air distance between Brisbane and Exeter is just over 10,000 miles, the ATR72-600 ordinarily has a maximum range of around 2,000 miles (though that’s higher with a very light load), and a maximum speed of around 300 miles.

As you’d expect, a journey like this would take a minimum of six stops, and would take well over 30 hours in the air. So, how did this repositioning flight happen?

The ATR72-600’s eight segment routing

Within the past week, the ATR72-600 ended up operating an eight segment routing over the course of seven days (including a two day break in Egypt). Suffice to say that the route was fascinating. Here’s how the plane flew:

  • On July 12 it flew from Brisbane to Darwin in a flight time of 6hr51min
  • On July 13 it flew from Darwin to Denpasar in a flight time of 4hr3min
  • On July 13 it flew from Denpasar to Medan in a flight time of 5hr
  • On July 14 it flew from Medan to Male in a flight time of 6hr8min
  • On July 14 it flew from Male to Muscat in a flight time of 6hr4min
  • On July 15 it flew from Muscat to Hurghada in a flight time of 5hr47min
  • On July 18 it flew from Hurghada to Catania in a flight time of 4hr38min
  • On July 18 it flew from Catania to Exeter in a flight time of 5hr7min

For some context:

  • The plane ended up flying a distance of 11,845 miles, about 14% longer than the direct air distance between the two airports
  • The shortest segment covered a distance of 1,097 miles (between Darwin and Denpasar), while the longest segment covered a distance of 1,771 miles (between Brisbane and Darwin)
  • The crew’s longest day was July 14, where over 12 hours were spent in the air, flying from Medan to Male to Muscat

Bottom line

Virgin Australia has retired its entire turboprop fleet, and as you’d expect, this means the planes largely have to be repositioned. While flying a wide body aircraft to the other side of the globe might be easy, the same isn’t true for a turboprop, with a range of just a couple of thousand miles.

That’s why I find these kinds of journeys to be especially interesting. While they happen every day around the globe, that doesn’t make them any less interesting. How cool (and exhausting) it must be to be the crew operating these flights.

Anyone find these repositioning flights to be as cool as I do?

(Featured image courtesy of Nick-D, tip of the hat to @WassimCornet)

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  1. Jim

    Love them!

    I’ve read that on some (737’s?) they use additional in-cabin fuel tanks to go the distance over water.

    Great article.

  2. Steven E

    Fascinating,and as youve commented no doubt fatigue making

  3. DKB

    This is the type of content I'm here for.

  4. tom

    So glad to read this type of refreshing content, rather than whatever the latest incident of poor passenger behavior on airplanes that so many other bloggers are writing about

  5. Paolo

    Not all that dissimilar routing from early jet services , eg 707, on QANTAS or BOAC. ( Sydney- Darwin-Singapore-Bombay-Karachi-Athens-Rome-London, or a variation, VV).
    COVID has given Virgin the opportunity to make these decisions ( perhaps a necessity). The shift to all 737s make very good sense. REX will dominate the regional/smaller plane space/niche.

  6. stogieguy7

    Stories like this are fascinating. And that is quite an epic journey for those pilots! And long. I wondered what they found to do in Hurghata for 3 days, so I looked it up and it's actually a Red Sea resort - so I'd imagine they got some well deserved R&R there.

  7. Airfarer

    Great story. There's a book, The Long Way Home, detailing the longest Pan Am flight ever when the Pacific war started. SYD-NYC via the Atlantic. Well worth a read.

    1. Tim Dunn

      I second that recommendation. It is a great historical and aviation book.

  8. Phil M

    I can hear the Indiana Jones theme music in my head when looking at that routing map…

  9. Jamie

    Love this. I used to fly around the Australian east coast on these birds. Now I’m back in the uk I may have the pleasure again

  10. Simon Schus

    So... there were actually a couple of these already at EXT on Saturday (17th rather than 18th) as I saw them there. I was very confused as to what they were, as I had thought that they might be some of the old 'Little Red' planes. However, this answer it for me!

  11. Jorge Paez

    How do they pay for fuel on these trips? Do they carry a company credit card?

    1. Jaded platinum

      Be surprised how may Shell and Esso signs you see at various FBOs in the world

  12. Morgan

    Wow, that's a long trip certainly seeing different parts of the world!

  13. MERVYN CROWE

    This is the third VIRGIN ATR 72 to be ferried from Brisbane to Exeter,VH-VPJ departing BNE 7th May and VH-VPI on 24th May. All three are reportedly for ''new'' airline EMERALD AIRWAYS, to cover the demise of STOBART AIR.
    VIRGIN operated 14 ATR-72s, with two different versions.

Featured Comments Load all 16 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Airfarer

Great story. There's a book, The Long Way Home, detailing the longest Pan Am flight ever when the Pacific war started. SYD-NYC via the Atlantic. Well worth a read.

Paolo

Not all that dissimilar routing from early jet services , eg 707, on QANTAS or BOAC. ( Sydney- Darwin-Singapore-Bombay-Karachi-Athens-Rome-London, or a variation, VV). COVID has given Virgin the opportunity to make these decisions ( perhaps a necessity). The shift to all 737s make very good sense. REX will dominate the regional/smaller plane space/niche.

MERVYN CROWE

This is the third VIRGIN ATR 72 to be ferried from Brisbane to Exeter,VH-VPJ departing BNE 7th May and VH-VPI on 24th May. All three are reportedly for ''new'' airline EMERALD AIRWAYS, to cover the demise of STOBART AIR. VIRGIN operated 14 ATR-72s, with two different versions.

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